I’m going to let you in on three things that I’ve done with my past marriages that pretty much guaranteed I would end up in failure. Settle in, grab the popcorn, and shake your head as I share my bad behavior.
1. Become a Mommy
I don’t mean give birth or adopt. I’m talking about turning into the over-responsible spouse who essentially becomes the secretary, chef, rescuer, and savior to your spouse’s adult child. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a little slack here and there, just don’t make it a habit.
Think of it this way, you’re the yin to his yang. Balance is important. Don’t end up as the fat kid on the responsible side of the relationship teeter totter. The more you carry, the less the other spouse carries.
With Husband #1, I was the bill payer, the resume writer, the appointment scheduler, the project planner and the financial analyst. To quote Husband #1, “I don’t want to know anything about the money as long as there is enough in there when I use my ATM card.” He was distraught to see how much in taxes came out of his paychecks so he just didn’t look at them. He had no idea how much it cost to run our household.
He also never scheduled a doctor, dentist, or plumber appointment in his life. He relied on me to tell him when and where to go. I wrote notes on his insurance card so that he would know the answers to the standard questions asked by the receptionist.
You know what happens with children? They eventually grow into teens and rebel. Put yourself in the parent role and you’ll end up with someone who resents you if there is no shift back towards equality.
If you find yourself shouldering most of the burden in an area, mix it up. Sure, things may be a little rough and some tasks may not get done, but don’t rescue. Becoming an effective adult takes practice.
With Husband #2, I carried the responsibility of planning out our vacations and travel. I’d ask for his input but really didn’t get the kind of participation that I hoped for. He was the kind of person that planned everything last minute and (in my mind) that translated to higher airfare and missed opportunities with booked up events.
With our last trip I turned over a lot of the planning to him. He picked out the locations and the dates and the activities. I handled my air travel and the hotels. As a change of pace, I didn’t even look up any information about the cities we were visiting. I was hands off.
You know what? The trip was enjoyable. And I made sure to tell him so.
2. Roll your eyes
Men are all about respect. They don’t get that when we roll our eyes, it’s our way of saying, “I’m done talking about it because I know you’re going to do it your way anyways. I give up.” They see the eye roll as, “You have no respect for me. You doubt me.”
I am the master of the eye roll. I learned my mad eye rolling skills growing up in a family where questioning authority was paramount to releasing a dangerous virus into the general public. You just didn’t ask questions and live.
Instead of the dreaded eye roll, learn to let things go. Maybe you can see the impending doom of your spouse’s behavior, but unless blood and huge sums of money are involved, let them make their own mistakes.
3. Quit your day job
Give up your career, independent activities, and other things that define you as an individual person. When you become dependent on one person to fill your needs, you’ve created a situation that is doomed to failure. Having a “one and only” to rely on puts that person in control of your life. Your spouse was attracted to you because you were interesting, not because you were helpless and needy.
By keeping your friends, you have someone else to go to when your spouse is doing their own thing. By keeping your job, you have your own financial independence, even if it’s just a little pocket money that you can spend without having to run it past another person. By taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally, you take the burden off of your partner to be the one who fulfills your every need. Keeping your sense of self ensures you will never get lost in your relationship.
This was my biggest mistake with Husband #2. I immersed myself in his business (his dream) and lost myself. I ended up grumpy, tired, and completely burned out. When he left, it took me two months of just doing nothing to regain my energy and optimism.
Now I can think of him doing his own thing and I can do mine without feeling abandoned.
I’m happy to report that I think I finally learned my lessons!